Western University welcomes a new report that sheds light on issues of racism in Ontario university athletics and makes recommendations for change.
The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and the Indigeneity, Diaspora, Equity and Anti-racism in Sport (IDEAS) Research Lab Anti-Racism Report, released today, highlights the important work that must be done to combat racism in university sport, according to Christine Stapleton, director of sport and recreation at Western.
“Western University and the Western Mustangs value this report and the opportunity for reflection to better understand and lift opportunities to address racism in the OUA and university sport,” Stapleton said. “The recommendations of this report are consistent with our goals to eliminate both overt and subtle forms of racism on our campus, and we look forward to reviewing it in more detail.”
The report found an overwhelming number of athletes, coaches and administrators in Ontario university athletics are white: 71 per cent of student-athletes; 78.5 per cent of coaches; and 80 per cent of administrators.
Involving a survey of 5,001 OUA members, including 4,058 student-athletes, 716 coaches and 227 sport administrators, the report outlines examples of racial incidents expressed by survey respondents and the barriers for reporting them.
“Meaningful change requires a deeper understanding of the experiences of racialized members of our community and an effort by all of us to listen and take action to create systemic change that will create not only a more inclusive and equitable experience, but a positive one for our students, coaches and staff,” Stapleton said.
Western continues to develop and support new programming and initiatives to promote equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization (EDI-D). The Western Mustangs, in collaboration with the Mustangs Athletes Students’ Council (MASC), has been working to implement these programs for students, coaches and staff, some of which include:
- providing anti-racism and EDI training for all student athletes, staff and head coaches
- creating a designated site on OWL – Western’s online learning tool – for EDI activities, including a place for student-athletes to share their stories and experiences, house information and resources, and showcase student EDI champions
- assisting coaches and staff to ensure teams use EDI-conscious recruiting and training practices
- examining the hiring interview process for staff and including a required EDI-D inclusion statement candidates must submit, with focused discussion on the statement.
- organizing speaker events on topics such as emotional culture, inclusive communications and understanding experiences of racialized LGBTQ+ individuals
- participating in resource-sharing among other EDI-focused organizations in the OUA.
“I’m really excited to see the steps Sport and Rec is now taking with the new mandatory training module for all student athletes,” said Joan-Shiao Chen, MASC president and chair of the newly established Mustangs varsity EDI committee. “It’s the first step in a long process to having an inclusive and supportive environment, and I look forward to seeing the next steps soon.”
Chen also acknowledges this is a process that will take some time. “As we know, these changes in campus culture do not happen overnight and I’m glad our athletes will be equipped with the base knowledge and skills to influence their peers and hopefully make a positive impact in the overall Western community.”
The student-athlete also spoke about some of the new initiatives she feels will have an impact on the ongoing work toward racial equity and diversity. “Our new varsity EDI committee was established with the goal of having every student feel welcomed, supported and included in the Mustang community. We have a great group of current and former Mustangs working on initiatives that include distributing resources to student-athletes, increasing awareness of our various backgrounds and identities, and creating opportunities for student-athletes to share their stories. We hope our efforts can bring about positive change.”
Stapleton noted the importance of ensuring anti-racism programming is embedded into the fabric of Western’s culture. “We want to elevate our student voices. To hear and understand better the lived experiences of our student athletes, so we can better support them through their student-athlete journey at Western.”
Earlier this month, Western launched an online equity census intended to build a more inclusive culture for students, faculty and staff. The demographic data survey is the next step in a strategy to embed policies, processes and practices of EDI-D into the fabric of Western, to be led by Opiyo Oloya, the university’s new associate vice-president (AVP) of EDI.
The census and the creation of the AVP, EDI role are part of Western’s commitment in response to the final report of the Anti-Racism Working Group. The university’s new strategic plan outlines specific commitments to EDI including the creation of new bursaries for students from equity-deserving groups.